Orleans Women's Clinic

New Orleans, LA

Almost five years after Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Coast is once again facing an uncertain future as the region dealsvwith the effects of a devestating oil spill.  Yet the people of New Orleans continue to push their beloved city's recovery forward, trying to reclaim what might havevonce seemed unrecoverable.  The Orleans Women’s Clinic (OWC), shut down for almost two years after Katrina, is
but one example of the city’s upward trajectory.  

“We’re really proud of our Orleans Women’s Clinic,” said Dr. Takeisha Davis, Regional Medical Director at the Louisiana Office of Public Health. “Since reopening in November of 2007, we’ve seen a steady increase in clients and have been able to provide quality health services to women of the Orleans Parish area.”

The first two years after reopening were a challenge.  Many of the staff with OWC, some veterans of  more than 20 years, did not return after Katrina, and much institutional memory was lost.  There were outreach efforts to let residents know that the health center was back, and during that time the clinic staff discovered just how great a need there was.  The population had changed, and many of the people in need of reproductive health services had previously held commercial insurance.  The staff at OWC educated these new patients about the system and their ability to receive services through Title X regardless of their ability to pay.  

In addition to newly uninsured patients, OWC saw an increase in the Spanish-speaking population it was serving, from about 6 percent to 13-15 percent of its client-base.  The health center has the services of an interpreter so it is able to provide services to more individuals.  The
cultural differences have also been a positive learning experience for the staff.  The health center stresses parental involvement, and many of the Spanish-speaking clients prefer to have a partner or parent in the room, so the staff is learning a lot about how to appropriately increase that involvement.

Though the health center is not yet able to provide maternity and child health services as it was prior to the storm, OWC is providing family planning and other preventive health services, and is running several innovative programs.  It has added services for tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases.  Responding to patients’ desire to reduce missed school and work, OWC is working with the city to bring pediatrics and an OB/GYN to provide “one-stop preventive and primary care.”

The staff at OWC is especially excited to bring back Teen Tuesdays, a program geared toward educating young women about their reproductive health and easing fears about annual exams.  During Teen Tuesdays, the health center will host a group of teenage girls and do initial education and a question and answer session in a group setting with family planning experts.  After the group session, individuals will be able to have an exam and ask questions in private with a nurse practitioner.  OWC is also partnering with school-based health centers that are unable to provide reproductive health services in order to ensure students have access to care.  In addition to re-launching Teen Tuesdays, OWC is working with the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies to use social media to spread health education messages to adolescents.  Using Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, OWC hopes to be able to draw more young people, especially men, to its health center.

With a name like “Orleans Women’s Clinic,” there are some additional hurdles to getting men through the door.  “We want to be able to bring these guys in and see what their needs are,” said Davis.  The state family planning program is applying for a grant to fund male health services, and if awarded OWC would participate.  Davis mentioned the possibility of offsite education and services in order to eliminate the hurdle of getting men through a door labeled “women’s clinic.”  Davis hopes to assess the needs of the male population so more targeted outreach can begin soon.

Orleans Women’s Clinic has also been conducting substantial outreach to university students.  The nurse practitioner at OWC has been very proactive about attending university health fairs and providing education in the dorms.  As a result, the health center has seen an influx of young women, and Davis highlighted the value of having peers to spread the message about where to get quality reproductive health services.

“We know this is a group that doesn’t have a lot of financial resources but they have a lot of opportunity of risk for unplanned pregnancies,” said Davis.  “We’re lucky to be geographically located close to several major universities.”

Davis is especially grateful that the Orleans Women’s Clinic is able to fill a gap in services to the people of New Orleans.  “We are exceedingly blessed to have this clinic to work in partnership with primary care providers.  Most clinics don’t provide family planning preventive care services, and we wanted to make sure people were able to access the reproductive health services they needed.”

NFPRHA is proud to have Orleans Women’s Clinic as a member.  If you are interested in having your program or site featured in an upcoming issue, please contact Robin Summers at (202) 293-3114 or rsummers@nfprha.org.

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National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association

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© 2011 National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association